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I read somewhere that auxiliary verbs are always strong (stressed or pronounced with full vowels) when combined with not. I'm not talking about contractions but when they're fully enunciated: You are not, she has not, they have not, etc. As native speakers, do you pronounce them weak or strong in these situations?

Also, when combined with been: do you use weak auxiliary or strong auxiliary forms as in she has been, they have been, etc? Plus, is been normally weak, pronounced with KIT vowel, or strong, FLEECE vowel?

Lastly, there, as a dummy subject, do you pronounce it weak, with schwa, or strong, with SQUARE, as in there to be, there are a, there is, etc? If it can be weak or strong, when would you normally use it strong and weak? Like at the end or beginning, middle of sentence, etc. Tag question is there? does it has weak or strong there?

I would greatly appreciate any answer or input, and forgive me if the question is too long. Also, I would like to hear especially from natives, and especially from how they say it naturally, and not by rules from manuals, etc, and if they're British, American, etc.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time.

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    Let's take an obvious example. When one says: "I have not been recently", there is no way to say that in full without pronouncing have in full. Because if you don't, you then get: I've not been recently", which is fine but shows your question is slightly off. Reducing the word have will necessarily entail 've. been is the same in: She's been here recently and She has been here recently. I think you are trying to discuss stress as in stress and intonation.
    – Lambie
    Jan 12, 2020 at 21:36
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    Let's start by saying that "I read somewhere that <grammatical claim>" is not the ideal way to start a question if one expects an answer. One can read anything somewhere; why should one believe any such claim? Jan 12, 2020 at 21:48
  • @Lambie: you're talking about a contraction, which is a reduction in a way, but native speakers can say 'have' in full but unstressed and with schwa, which also counts as a reduction, instead of using the TRAP vowel. My question is if the presence of the word 'not' would force 'have' to be stressed and keep the TRAP vowel as it does in contractions, like 'haven't', etc.
    – Jeremiah
    Jan 12, 2020 at 23:46
  • @John Lawler: I've read it here: books.google.com.br/…
    – Jeremiah
    Jan 12, 2020 at 23:50
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    @Lambie: I think you're not very versed in phonetics and phonology, as not only you seem to not understand the points being made but raise irrelevant objections which are unrelated to the subject. I suggest you do some research and come back after you're sufficiently acquainted with the subject. As for your comment here, functor CAN indeed be used to denote ‘function word’, as it is used by JWL in this article: yek.me.uk/wkfms.html. Also, see functor definition in Oxford Learner's dictionary online.
    – Jeremiah
    Feb 15, 2020 at 23:59

1 Answer 1

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"I read somewhere that auxiliary verbs are always strong (stressed or pronounced with full vowels) when combined with not. I'm not talking about contractions but when they're fully enunciated: You are not, she has not, they have not, etc. As native speakers, do you pronounce them weak or strong in these situations?" = false. Why? Because meaning can be delivered through stressing a word so it all depends on speaker intention."

I believe the question, as posed, is misguided.

1) - THAT has been the problem around here recently.

2) - That HAS been the problem around here recently.

3) - That has BEEN the problem around here recently.

4) - That HAS BEEN a problem around here recently. [equal stress, full verb]

I limited myself to only contrasting the subject and the verbs. For 3) there would be a tendency to reduce or shorten the have to 've. It is not quite That's and it's not quite That has. It's something like "that-uhs". Sorry, can't put in the phonemes, too much work.

with NOT:

1) - THAT has not been the problem around here recently.

2) - That HAS not been the problem around here recently. But it IS now. [not a usual utterance, but[possible] 2) a - That HAS NOT been the problem around here recently.

3) - That has NOT BEEN the problem around here recently. [same as 3) in declarative in terms of the reduction.]

4) - That HAS NOT BEEN a problem around here recently. [equal stress, full verb]

One way to characterize this is called contrastive stress:

contrastive stress

There are others. In a particular context, one can also talk about speech acts, pragmatics and intended meaning, etc., here is an introduction to a scholarly view of this:

speech acts

In my explanation, I limited myself to this idea:

Conversational implicature, too, depends both upon communicative intentions and the availability of inference to the best explanation (Grice, 1989) [from speech acts, above]

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  • I understand that stress placement can affect meaning and might depend on the intention of the speaker. However, I'm taking about the general case. There are words in English which are very rarely stressed in normal speech, unless some unusual meaning is intended, that includes function words which are usually weak, except in certain positions, like at the end of a sentence, etc. Lexical words, ofc, have lexical stress which usually don't change (except perhaps in singing), though emphasis can be applied. I'm not concerned about meaning…
    – Jeremiah
    Jan 14, 2020 at 3:02
  • … what I'm looking for is to investigate the function words and when they can be weak or not, not considering meaning but position in the sentence or other aspects that might force a weak word to become strong. Like stress distribution. When natives say 'for them' usually either they stress the 'for' and leave 'them' unstressed or they do the opposite. Now the choice might be affected by intention but what I'm looking for is the phonological rule: …
    – Jeremiah
    Jan 14, 2020 at 3:12
  • … If two words can be weak and they're pronounced in sequence, would they both be weak or one of them would become strong, so the other word can lean on it?
    – Jeremiah
    Jan 14, 2020 at 3:12
  • @Jeremiah There is no general case. I provided an example with a "real life" utterance based on your question. Now, you mention function words (to, for, for example), a different kettle of fish. 3) is "leaning on another word". It's impossible to describe real utterances' stress and intonation in a void: for two words to be weak, they have to occur in a real environment. If you don't grasp that fact first, it's impossible to continue explaining this. Not everyone will play the same Moonlight Sonata.
    – Lambie
    Jan 14, 2020 at 15:47

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